Sunday, 24 June, 2018

Mars Rover Curiosity Finds More Clues to the Potential for Life

Curiosity tests a new way to drill on Mars What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here
Eleanor Moreno | 08 June, 2018, 12:27

It has also found evidence in Mars' atmosphere, relating to the search for current life on the red planet.

NASA says, 'The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover'.

NASA now operates three orbiters and two surface rovers at Mars with a new lander - InSight - on the way.

That stuff is thought to be spread throughout the solar system, she said. But they're of interest to astrobiologists because they are the essential ingredients in all the chemistry that drives life on Earth.

Ever since, scientists have ardently hunted for Mars's missing carbon-or at least an explanation for its absence. The molecules could have come from something like kerogen, a component of fossil fuel that is found in coal and oil shale.

NASA scientist Chris Webster confirmed that water has been found on the martian surface and has been present for "a very long time", which points strongly toward a "habitable environment".

"A lot of us were left scratching our heads trying to figure out, "What does this mean?' Then we turned around and realised, 'Let's just go and find more", said Dr Eigenbrode of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

The term "organic" means something different to a chemist than it does to a produce manager at a grocery store.

In their new work the team checked to see what this restrictive process might have missed.


"It could be from rock processes", processes that have been going on during the billions of years since Mars formed. In fact, thiophenes are pretty simple molecules that are just a 5-sided carbon ring, but with a sulfur molecule replacing a carbon atom.

Nasa's Curiosity rover has discovered organic matter on Mars, the agency has announced in a press conference. In chemistry, almost all molecules containing both carbon and hydrogen are organic compounds.

"You're seeing a factor of three change in the methane in the atmosphere of Mars".

The two studies build on and advance smaller detections of atmospheric methane and ancient organic compounds on Mars. The two rock samples, from sites named Confidence Hills and Mojave, are at the bottom of Gale Crater.

"They could be changed from something like we've observed at the base of the mountain into methane that eventually makes its way back in to the atmosphere", she said.

The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. "It's like having a problem with your auto", he says. However, the abundances of methane measured are greater than models predict should occur, meaning we still don't know exactly how they are produced. That could even be happening beneath the surface now, the researchers said.

Other scientists who did not take part in the research had mixed reviews on findings' significance in the search for life. But Marc Fries, a planetary scientist who curates the cosmic dust collection at NASA Johnson Space Center, takes a more skeptical view.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the space said that with these findings "Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life". In the winter, the gas could get trapped underground in icy crystals called clathrates, which may melt in the summer and free the gas.

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